WNT players use education as part of pathway
Now in camp preparing for Saturday’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifier away to Germany, most of Vera Pauw’s squad have experienced some form of higher education in tandem with building their careers in football.
In fact, 10 players studied at third level in Ireland (midfielder Niamh Farrelly is still in DCU) with the Football Association of Ireland’s links with IT Carlow helping to offer courses that merge business with football.
However, the connection between football and education actually starts at Primary School level with the SPAR Primary 5’s competition proving to be hugely popular with phenomenal growth each year – particularly on the participation of girls.
From there many players would have competed at Post Primary School and Secondary School level, with the likes of Ellen Molloy enjoying success as she helped Presentation Secondary School Kilkenny to glory in the Post Primary Schools National Futsal Finals in 2016.
Loreto Community School, Milford scholar Amber Barrett notched up a hat-trick for Ulster in the Interprovincial series win against Leinster in 2010. That was the only time they won the tournament in its 26-year history. Even from a budding 14-year-old, the scoring prowess was evident as she scored 10 goals from the 14-goal tally to ensure her side’s success over the three-day tournament.
Two of Barrett’s Irish colleagues went on to feature for the Ireland Schools team that season with Leinster’s Keeva Keenan (St. Michael’s SS, Finglas) and Munster’s Megan Connolly (Christ the King Girls).
In 2002, the Ireland Women’s Under-15 Schools team provided a route into international football for young students and many of the current squad have come through that level, including Niamh Fahey (who now has 90 senior caps).
The Ireland Schools team have won the prestigious Bob Docherty Cup on seven occasions since joining the Home Nations event in 2002. Kilkenny graduate Ellen Molloy captained her country to lift the Cup in 2019, while Katie McCabe (St. Paul’s SS, Greenhills) and Amber Barrett (Loreto CS, Milford) were on the winning side in 2010.
As their international, and club, careers took off, many players continued to keep studying and would have competed in the WSCAI Leagues (now CUFL Women’s since 2018/19), WSCAI Intervarsities and Futsal.
Seven of those players – Niamh Reid-Burke, Louise Quinn, Claire O’Riordan, Niamh Fahey, Niamh Farrelly, Amber Barrett and Rianna Jarrett – went on to represent Ireland at the World University Games.
While the number of players studying at home has been encouraging, some have also studied abroad, including Diane Caldwell, Megan Connolly, Hayley Nolan and Heather Payne going to the United States, while others have either come through the US system or excelled in the UK.
The FAI-ETB programme has also proved to be a positive learning environment for women’s players with both Reid-Burke and Katie McCabe having spent time at the Clondalkin Centre.
Former Republic of Ireland Women's Under-15 Schools Players
2002: Niamh Fahey, St. Paul’s SS, Oughterard
2004: Aine O’Gorman, Loreto SS, Bray
2009: Denise O’Sullivan, Regina Mundi College, Cork
2010: Rianna Jarrett, Presentation SS, Wexford
2010: Katie McCabe, St. Paul’s SS, Greenhills
2010 & 2011: Amber Barrett, Loreto CS, Milford
2011 & 2012: Megan Connolly, Christ King Girls SS, Cork
2012: Keeva Keenan, St. Michael’s Holy Faith SS, Finglas
2013: Niamh Farrelly, St. Joseph’s SS, Lucan
2013: Jamie Finn, St. Finian’s CC, Swords
2014: Leanne Kiernan, Bailieborough CS, Cavan
2014: Heather Payne, Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe
2018 & 2019: Ellen Molloy, Presentation SS, Kilkenny
Third Level Students (in Ireland)
Niamh Reid Burke – IT Blanchardstown
Louise Quinn – UCD, IT Carlow
Aine O’Gorman – Sallynoggin College of FE, IT Carlow
Claire O’Riordan – IT Carlow
Niamh Fahey – NUI Galway
Jamie Finn – DCU
Denise O’Sullivan – Colaiste Stiofain Naofa, Cork
Niamh Farrelly – DCU
Amber Barrett – Maynooth, DCU
Rianna Jarrett – IT Carlow
Former FAI-ETB students
Niamh Reid-Burke & Katie McCabe – Clondalkin
Germany v Republic of Ireland
UEFA 2022 Women’s European Championship Qualifying – Group I
Saturday, September 19
KO 13:00 (Irish Time)